It’s official, the SEC is going to come down to a three-team race. Tennessee, LSU, and Kentucky. It seems as if the SEC is not as deep as we thought it would be. Or, beyond those three teams listed, the rest is beating up on each other. Because the second tier of Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Auburn have fallen off substantially. This doesn’t mean that the SEC won’t get their fair share of teams into the tourney, it just means that the seeding of those teams will be significantly different than expected. Not to mention, the pipe dream of South Carolina running the table and sneaking into the tourney with an automatic bid looks less and less likely each game. At this point in the season, expect 5 teams to make it to the big dance, but no more than that. The second half of the conference has taken a step back.
Player of the Week
PJ Washington, Kentucky
PJ Washington is finally who we thought he would be heading into the season. With three consecutive 20+ point games, it seems that he figured it out. Washington would have stretches in games where he would look lost or not putting in the effort that we have seen from him before. But, Cal finally got to him. PJ is shooting 42% from deep this year, way up from a 24% effort last year. He even went a perfect 3-3 in that beatdown against Vandy. Washington might be the most important player for the Wildcats. If you have PJ and Reid Travis being active down low there isn’t going to be many teams in the country that will be able to beat this team. Three out of their last four games came against ranked opponents and PJ Washington has averaged: 18 points per game with 8.7 boards. Kentucky is a different team when they have PJ playing the way everybody expects him to down low, and add in him stretching the floor now? Tough to stop.
Tremont Waters, LSU
I have mentioned Tremont Waters frequently in recent blog posts and I still feel as if it isn’t enough. The kid is not talked about enough in college basketball circles and part of it is because no one is giving LSU the respect they deserve. LSU is undefeated in the SEC and is only ranked No. 19 in the country. They’re in a race for an SEC Championship with the likes of Tennessee and Kentucky and yet they are not being talked about. Tremont Waters is battling with Grant Williams for SEC Player of the Year and you rarely hear his name. After Grant Williams’ historic performance against Vanderbilt, Tremont Waters responded with one of his own. In his last performance against Texas A&M, Waters scored half his team’s points. Waters scored 36 of his teams’ 72 points in a blowout win against the Aggies. Also, the 5’11 guard grabbed 7 boards and went 6-10 from 4 point range. In an OT game against Missouri, Waters’ shot was not falling but he still managed to have an impact on the game. Him and Ashton Hagans are the best perimeter defenders in the SEC, and among the best in the country. He grabbed 3 steals and had 9 dimes in a victory over Missouri. We have about 2 weeks until we see Waters matchup with Hagans and Kentucky in what will be a pivotal matchup for the SEC crown. If LSU continues to run the table, there’s no doubt we’ll start hearing everyone talk about Tremont Waters and he’ll be given the respect he deserves.
Tyler Herro, Kentucky (’s 3-point Shooting)
This could have been a three-way tie between Herro’s perimeter shooting, Ole Miss, or just SEC depth in general. But, Tyler Herro made a statement that gave me no choice but to give him the nod here. Herro said, “I’m not just a white boy who can shoot.” Well, Herro is 0-7 in his last two games beyond the arc and is just shooting 33% from deep on the year. Herro takes the most shots on this Wildcats team and has the 7th highest FG Percentage on the team. We all know Herro can shoot, but just when you think he finally found his stride, he goes on cold streaks like this. Don’t get me wrong, Herro has come a long way since the beginning of the season. When he was not making shots, he was a liability on the court. He struggled defensively and didn’t do much else to help his team. But, now he is active on the defensive end and is lethal from mid-range. He also has the athleticism to get to the hole and create his own shot. But, the timing of the statement was too perfect. It is a stereotype, and Herro is correct about his statement. He does a lot more for Kentucky than just hit from beyond the arc. But, right now, Herro is not hitting from the beyond the arc.
Top 5 Freshman in the SEC
1.) Keldon Johnson, Kentucky
Keldon has been streaky over the course of the season and has still managed to lead No. 7 ranked Wildcats in scoring. The kid can play and is very active on both sides of the ball. The top recruit coming into the SEC, is still the top freshman right now.
2.) Ashton Hagans, Kentucky
Don’t let the stats fool you. Ashton Hagans has been the biggest reason for Kentucky’s turnaround this season. He is without a doubt one of the best perimeter defenders in the country and has averaged more than 6+ assists in his last three games. The last Wildcat PG to do that? Tyler Ulis.
3.) Naz Reid, LSU
Tremont Waters may get all the credit, but Naz Reid is a beast. LSU is a young team with a couple of stud freshman, but Reid is the standout. Reid is 6’10 and can knock it down from the beyond the arc and also is able to bully you down low.
4.) Kira Lewis, Alabama
One of the fastest and most electric players in the country. He is still only 17 years old, he should still be in high school. He’s leading the way for a struggling Alabama team, but he is one of the best freshmen in the SEC.
5.) Tyler Herro, Kentucky
We went over this, Herro can do more than shoot. He is very valuable for the Wildcats on both sides of the ball and is very tough to guard. And that is without him hitting from long-range right now.